Luis Kun Conference

"Improving Life: The New and Expanding Role of Biomedical Engineering through Science, Technology and Information Convergence”

The current Worldwide EBOLA crisis, remind us, of many other emergent diseases of the 21st century including: Avian Flu, West Nile Virus, SARS, Mad Cow Disease, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  These threats constitute a “new form of normal” where the characteristics of the threats can be described as global threats with local impact or local threats with global impact.  The impact of these diseases is reflected in many fields beyond healthcare and public health including the national security and the economy of those affected nations.  Small world networks of local groups, show us how through a fast transmission, these conditions can completely bring down entire regions.   This “new normality” has response requirements where the emphasis should be: quick detection, quick and effective communication, a quick and effective integration and a quick and effective action.  The keys to deal with these aspects of globalization are: connectivity, speed and integration.  The vision of the Public Health Information Network can transform public health through the coordination of its functions and the organization through information systems that will allow: real time sharing of information, computer assisted decision support systems,  professional collaboration and rapid dissemination of information to hospitals, clinics and the public.Wireless technologies and remote sensing when combined with social networks and geographical information systems are having a prominent role in the coordination, communication, planning, response and management to some of the most devastating disaster scenarios we have witnessed in the last few decades.  On the other hand many issues we routinely experience with respect to solving health care or public health problems, such as medical errors, occur and are perpetuated because of our silos or stovepipes of information. The scientific community recognizes intimately that preparing for the provision of health care, and erecting our public health system of tomorrow, is not just a matter of converging heterogeneous technologies and science but of people and processes as well. As society prepares to shift the current systems into some where wellness and disease prevention will be the focus, society will face some major challenges. The convergence of science and technology open some doors of opportunity that may help diminish the polarization among the developed and underdeveloped nations. Society needs a systems approach and having a holistic view of the problem; to be able to see the whole and not just discrete pieces; and help determine, for example unintended consequences which are absent. Integration of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary orientations and activities when trying to understand the problem and moving toward generating potential solutions are needed; yet present approaches are grossly insufficient in this respect. A new Global Health strategy where the public and private sectors work together will be presented as well as a wide range of opportunities that can start at the cellular, molecular and genetics levels and go as far as population health. A Global Economy that will be pushed to integrate surveillance and epidemiology for better protection against environmental threats and food borne diseases through the use of remote sensing data and a worldwide food enterprise architecture will also be discussed.